The 2015 Mandurah Half Ironman Swim

Today I completed the 1.9 kilometre Mandurah half ironman swim and, hence, reached my goal to become an efficient swimmer.

I originally intended to finish all three race legs. In early October I re-evaluated the situation. Considering interrupted preparation including trips to Malaysia, Melbourne and Adelaide, preparing for South America, packing up the house and my life, and the flight to Brazil two days later, I decided to only attempt the swim. This aligned with my swimming goal and was far more manageable.

Yesterday afternoon I drove an hour south of Perth to Mandurah foreshore for the surprisingly efficient registration process. After checking in my bike (I didn’t want to risk disqualification) I travelled to nearby Wannanup where Bernice, Gerry and Nick kindly hosted me.

This morning the 4:45 alarm rang. As the transition area closed at 5:45, early access was critical. The 700+ bikes on racks made an impressive sight. The pros placed their expensive machines on a special red-carpeted line.

Mandurah half ironman bikes

Mandurah half ironman bikes in the transition area

The professional men began their open water swim at 6 am followed by the pro women and then various age groups of amateur men and women. Each wave wore colour-coded swim caps and my navy-capped wave was one of the last, starting at 7:01.

The water was murky and I took time to get into rhythm. I felt best in the middle 60%. I didn’t experience much carnage, only the odd bump. One woman who bumped into me said she thought I was a buoy and I immediately replied I am 😀

The picturesque swim course goes around canals and, about half way in, under a bridge. The finishing stairs appearing in the distance were a welcome sight and minutes later I was out of the water and running to the transition area. I’m uncertain what time the swim took (~50 minutes I guess) but I made it!

Two months to go in my Half Ironman Quest

On the 8th of November I will participate in the Mandurah Half Ironman. A half ironman is a triathlon which consists of the following legs in order:

  1. Swim: 1.9 kilometres
  2. Bike: 90 kilometres
  3. Run: 21.1 kilometres (half marathon distance)


My primary motivation for entering the half ironman was to learn to swim efficiently, something I’ve desired for a long time.

In May, to understand how to improve my technique, I took a coaching lesson from Sally Scaffidi of Swim Smooth. Sally videoed my stroke and her post-swim advice, recommending stroke-specific training drills.

For the last 3 months I have swum laps in my local aquatic centre’s outdoor 50 metre pool up to 6 times a week. On most occasions I rewarded myself with a sauna and spa for slogging it out and drinking chlorinated water in the winter weather.

My stroke has improved massively although I still have a fair way to go. Last week Sally gave me a follow-up coaching lesson. My primary element to correct is bending my elbow in the ‘pull’ instead of using a straight arm. Other improvements required are looking further forward instead of directly below and lifting my head out slightly when breathing instead of a long way. To assist with my drills, I have a pull-buoy, fins and hand paddles.

Going forward, after more training sessions in the pool, I will focus on swimming in the sea using a triathlon wetsuit to mimic race conditions. The wetsuit and the sea water will improve buoyancy and the wetsuit will also reduce drag. The sea also provides variable conditions with waves, currents and creatures.


Last week I revisited Andrew Budge of Trysport to fit the aero bars and other parts ordered at his request and adjust the bike to suit my dimensions. This week I set up my CycleOps Fluid 2 bike trainer in the lounge room and undertook my first cycle session assisted by the awesomeness of the Pearl Jam Twenty 3-Disc Deluxe Edition DVD. I’m less concerned about the bike part of the triathlon as long as I put in the training hours.


Having completed 3 half marathons this year, one may think I’m ready for this leg of the triathlon. However, this is not the case. Running immediately after a bike ride is very different to running independently and is requires specific practise.

A bike ride followed by a run is called a ‘brick’ session and these are extremely important when training for a triathlon. My peak training aim is a 3 hour bike ride followed by a 1.5 to 2 hour run.

Fantastic fitness will be a positive side-effect of the triathlon training and I’m looking forward to that. Two months to go!